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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2015/10/21
by Matt Nestor

The Wood Brothers, Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA- 10/10

As the floor inside Philadelphia’s Union Transfer began to fill up and bar banter intensified with Saturday night fervor, Gill Landry walked to the stage for his opening set. Landry’s cowboy boots clicking with the rhythm and his western homburg hat shading his eyes hinted at his upbringing as a Louisiana street performer. The singer’s deep drawl and vagabond folk tunes offered up a warm appetizer for The Wood Brothers, the main course slow-roasting backstage. Oliver Wood would later note the show was grounds for celebration, being the last of the band’s early autumn tour supporting the Oct. 2 release of Paradise. With just a few slower folk ballads placed throughout the setlist, there was certainly a party atmosphere urged by the trio’s relentless Americana grooves.

The Wood Brothers headlining set began with the harmonic ballad “The Muse,” a continuation of Landry’s pensive vibe. But that mood was short-lived as Chris Wood started the funky bass line for “Never And Always,” the third track on the trio’s sixth studio album, Paradise. Although Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi weren’t in attendance to sit in on “Never And Always” as they do in the studio version, this rendition wasn’t any less groovy. The younger Wood’s sultry bass combined with Jano Rix’s fine-tuned slapping of the “shuitar” provided the elder Wood, Oliver, with the perfect foundation for his twangy voice.

Rix then ditched the shuitar for his drum set on “Mary Anna” which included a blackout interlude honoring the song’s main hook: “Oh why don’t you cut all the lights Mary Anna.” While Chris and Oliver Wood shone in this fraternal spectacle, Rix was the unsung hero, playing keyboard, melodica, assorted percussion, and creating a pocket on the drums so deep you could fit Chris Wood’s upright bass in it.

Fans of Chris’ instrumental work in Medeski Martin & Wood might enjoy seeing the esteemed bassist in this setting, where he plays harmonica, dances around with his bass, and sings. Chris was usually harmonizing with his older brother, but on “The Shore” he took lead vocals over a slinky bass line.

After the trio rumbled through a new tune, “Snake Eyes,” Chris pulled out his bow and took a classical bass solo, which segued into “Who The Devil,” with its jazzy verses and straight-ahead rocking choruses. “Postcards From Hell” followed, serving as a sentimental breather in the middle of some of the band’s essential funky porch numbers. That segment ended with a spirited “When I Was Young,” complete with a drum n’ bass outro, before the lights went down for the so-called “Oh Wood Brother Where Art Thou” portion of the show.

Circling around a single microphone as in traditional bluegrass performances, the trio invited Landry back on stage, as well as Philadelphia native, Amos Lee. In five-part harmony, the group performed a moving rendition of “Ain’t No More Cane,” a traditional southern tune once covered by The Band.

Returning to The Wood Brothers proper, the trio was in the home stretch, slaying renditions of “Atlas,” the new rocker “Singin’ To Strangers,” “Wasting My Mind” and finally “Honey Jar” to raucous applause from the intimately packed audience. In only 90 minutes, the band had artfully explored its catalog with a perfect mix of old songs and new. The Wood Brothers had certainly redeemed the price of admission, all before a special encore.

With Lee back on stage helping out with vocals, the ensemble began the encore with “Luckiest Man,” complete with a serene keyboard intro by Rix. The final refrain was sung by the audience which had demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the band’s lyrics – old and new – throughout the night. And, to finish a celebratory evening, The Wood Brothers revisited The Band with a feel-good cover of “Ophelia.” It’s hard to imagine a band that can do as much with as little instrumentation as The Wood Brothers, and they pulled out all the stops in Philadelphia.

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